Finding the Core: How simplifying your brand will broaden your horizons

Life is like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk. Walk and you stay put. Stand still and you go backwards. To get ahead you have to hustle.”

All great brands know this. Look at the history of any great brand and you will see an obsession with moving forward, and with progress as they constantly reposition themselves in the ever-changing world around them.

But how do the big brands go about it.

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Refine and Simplify

“A designer knows when he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

starbucks

A perfect example of this is the Starbucks 2011 rebrand.

It was a subtle and seamless change. They stripped away the superfluous information and design, and kept the core of the image: the iconic green and the siren iconography. The rest was unnecessary, what remains is the essence. The core.


Find the Core

Finding the core doesn’t just apply to imagery. Apple are now worth an estimated $1tn, but back in 1997 they came close to bankruptcy. It was seen as kind of cool, but also kind of stupid, and definitely inferior to its competitors such as IBM, Dell and HP.

Enter: Steve Jobs. The second he took charge of the company in 1997 he started looking not for what to add, but what to take away. First, he stripped away 70% of the product line to focus purely on the best of the best. But he was looking for far more than that. He was looking to strip Apple down to its core. To find its essence and its greatness. He retells, in a talk in 1997, what he found:

“Apple at the core — its core value — is that we believe that people with passion can change the world.”

This led to one of the most iconic ad campaigns of all time — the Think Different campaign.

apple ad

Steve Jobs simplified everything. Much like Nike had done before them, with Campaigns such as Just Do It, Apple stopped showing people what they produced, and started telling them what they believed. And they asked their customers to believe in it too.

As time has told, it worked. People started buying apple, not for the products that they made, but for the values that they represented.


Cut it down to build it up

At this time they were actually still called Apple Computers; it wasn’t until 2002 that they simplified the name to simply: Apple. It was a further refinement that stripped the company name down to its very core.

But cutting down didn’t mean limiting the company, it meant building it up. It was a way to broaden their horizons. It allowed them to branch out into the music industry and the phone industry and the watch industry — with the iPod and the iPhone and the iWatch — and it gave them the podium from which they would eventually change the very nature of those industries for ever.

A simple, minor and almost unnoticed name change, a tiny simplification, made Apple the unstoppable $1tn company that it is today.

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The most important part of a successful rebrand is finding the core. Just like Starbucks did. Just like Nike did. Just like Apple did. Just Do It.

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